Why ADR believes SBI can easily match electoral bond donors with parties

Association for Democratic Reforms seeks contempt of court proceedings against bank


In its petition before the Supreme Court seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the State Bank of India over the electoral bonds scheme case, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) claimed that the bonds are completely traceable, and easily so since the bank maintains a secret number-based record of donors who buy the bonds, and the political parties they donate to.

The ADR, in the petition filed on Thursday, said as per experts, the software that the bank is using to keep a record of the bonds can generate the required information on the basis of a simple query.

“...since each electoral bond has a unique number, a simple query on the database can generate a report in a particular format which does not require any manual verification,” it was stated in the petition.

It was also contended by ADR that while the sealed envelopes are only physical instruments like a cheque, the actual transaction of the cheque being deposited is in the database that can be easily extracted by generating a software query.

“As per SBI's own website, SBI has 2,60,000 employees, 22,500 worldwide branches administered by a headquarters, 17 local head offices, 101 zonal offices and 208 foreign offices in 36 countries. It is hard to believe that SBI is not able to gather information which SBI has itself recorded,” the petition said.

It was further stated by the petitioner that as per information procured by Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retd) from an RTI application, the SBI has spent Rs 60,43,005 on IT system development, and the operational cost was Rs 89,72,338 with regard to the management of electoral bonds. The net cost for floating the bonds was Rs 1,50,15,338.

The ADR filed a petition seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against the SBI for “wilfully and deliberately” disobeying the order of the Supreme Court passed on February 15 in the electoral bonds scheme case.

The SBI was asked by the court to submit details of the bonds purchased since the court's interim order on April 12, 2019, till date, to the Election Commission. The details have to include the date of purchase of each electoral bond, the name of the purchaser of the bond, and the denomination of the electoral bond purchased.

The bank was also asked to submit the details of political parties which have received contributions through the bonds since April 12, 2019, till date to the EC. It has to disclose details of each bond encashed by the political parties which shall include the date of encashment and the denomination of the bond. It had to submit the details to the EC by March 6.

The bank told the court that the donor details were kept in a sealed cover at the designated branches and all such sealed covers were deposited in the main branch of the applicant branch, which is located in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, as per the bank's submission before the court, each political party was required to maintain a designated account in any of the 29 authorised branches. It was only in this account that the bonds received by that party could be deposited and redeemed. At the time of redemption, the original bond, the pay-in slip, would be stored in a sealed cover and sent to the SBI Mumbai main branch.

As per the bank, it can thus be noted that both sets of information were being stored independently of each other and to re-match them would be a task requiring a significant amount of effort. It sought an extension of time for providing the details till the end of June.


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